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A Magazine for Sheffield

Sheffield pub heritage: a way to learn about our past and shape our future

Pubs are an integral part of Sheffield's local history and heritage. Dave Pickersgill looks at some highlights - and lowlights - of the city's pub scene. 

Sheffield Old Queen's Head pub

Sheffield Old Queen's Head pub


The recent inspirational Sheffield Heritage Fair and the equally successful, South Yorkshire Listing Project continue to highlight the importance of our local heritage: how we learn about our past and how it shapes our future. One integral aspect of this interest is pubs: for centuries, the home of personal interactions and a barometer of social change.

Although CAMRA was initially founded in 1971 to save Britain’s traditional beer, it quickly became clear that the best places to drink that beer, our pubs, were also under threat.

In due course, CAMRA assigned equal importance to campaigning for both real ale and pubs.

Pubs are part of our heritage; places where our ancestors lived, worked and relaxed, places that have had a major effect on the development of our city.

A green door with a glass feature that reads The Grapes

The Grapes door

Dave Pickersgill

Sheffield's pub heritage suffered from the modernising carnage of the 1960s and 1970s. Swathes of unsympathetic refurbishments were inflicted on a wide scale and even local companies, like Wards, eventually succumbed.

Pub rooms were opened out and numerous historical features were lost.

Fortunately, many treasures remain.

For example the Blue Ball in Worrall has an impressive set of Tennants windows, while many such examples from Gilmours, Stones and Wards can be found across the city. The Grapes has ‘T R & Co’, referring to Thomas Rawson and Company, whose 1790 brewery occupied two acres on the site now occupied by Sheffield Hallam University.

The last 30 years have seen some reversing of the ‘modernisation’ trend. Victorian buildings – banks, cinemas, offices, shops, toilets and workshops – have also been converted into pubs, saving their heritage and making positive use of the building.

Several local pubs originated over 200 years ago: notably the Trippet Lane triangle of the Dog & Partridge, Fagan’s and the Grapes, all of which were active in Napoleonic times. Two are in the City Centre Conservation Area, while Fagan’s recently joined the South Yorkshire List.

1940s plans proposed that the internal snug of the Dog & Partridge should become a gent’s toilet, while, in 1815, the present-day lounge at Fagan’s was a neighbouring tenement.

A surprise to many is that the Old Queens Head, the oldest domestic building in the city centre, did not become a beerhouse until 1841. Grade II* listed, it is the only Sheffield pub to be so highly rated.

Carbrook Hall pub

Carbrook Hall pub in 2013


Carbrook Hall in Attercliffe is also II* listed. After almost 160 years as a pub, this closed in 2017, re-opening as a Starbucks two years later. In their wisdom, the new occupiers whitewashed the ceiling of the Jacobean Old Oak Room, removing the distinctive colourful design that had been in place for many years.

Their extensive use of white paint is the heritage equivalent of taking a paint brush to the Sistine Chapel. Hence, my personal boycott of this multi-national chain.

The CAMRA Pub Heritage Group has compiled listings of the most intact pub interiors across the country. These are categorised as 3*, 2* and 1*. Sheffield has two 3* pubs: the Bath Hotel and the Sheffield Tap. The Bath is an unusually complete example of a Sheffield corner public house, which retains, in almost complete form, the Ind Coupe 1931 plan and fittings.

At Sheffield railway station, the old First Class Refreshment Room was originally built by the Midland Railway (company architect, Charles Trubshaw) as part of their 1905 station extension. The inside was adorned with Minton tiled walls and fine ornamented bar-fittings. The rooms became disused in the 1960s and were used for a short period as a waiting room in the 1970s. It closed in 1975, restoration began in 2008 and it re-opened in 2009. The 2013 addition of the former First Class Dining Room, with on-site brewery, took the project to a whole new level.

A Sheffield Pub Heritage Walk booklet has recently reached the shops. This new publication takes the reader on an illustrated walk from the University Arms to Fagan’s, one of the guided Pub Heritage walks that is part of the imminent 2023 Sheffield Beer Week. In addition, a new expanded 5th edition of Sheffield’s Real Heritage Pubs will be available in the near future.

Learn more

The Pub Heritage Walk booklet is on sale at Beer Central, University Arms and Millennium Galleries.

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